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Pistol Sighting Options: What Decision To Make?


By Defensive Daddy via Growing Up Guns

A discussion in a facebook group recently got me thinking. One of my friends whom I always like talking shop with was asking about night sights for the Beretta PX4 that I’ve had for several months. I explained that I purchased some Trijicon HD sights for it, but upon inspection, noticed they were about the same dimension as the factory sights (no precision improvement), and the bright orange front sight insert looked about the same as the hobby paint home-job I had done myself. I returned the sights and saved $150. I didn’t see the incremental increase in utility from 3 tritium vials for $150. Granted, not all factory sights are as good as the ones on the PX4 (looking at you Glock), but I think the usual “YOU MUST HAVE TRITIUM ON A DEFENSIVE GUN” mantra might need to be reevaluated. Or at least considered on a case by case basis.

We then talked about lasers for the PX4, which started getting my wheels turning about choosing between fancy sights, or fancy lasers.

To further make me question my stance on tritium, one of my mentors, Paul Sharp, uses narrow fiber optic sights on his duty gun. So do several other of my meat-eating door-kicking buddies. This flies in the face of common advice. “The fiber will break and you won’t have a front sight”. Well, almost no one I know uses their gear more than Paul, and if they work for him… who am I to dismiss his findings? Besides, if the fiber falls out, you still have the steel cage it sits in, so you’re not totally S.O.L. AND FO sight sets also are less expensive at $50-75 depending on maker.

So I asked myself this question:

After nearly 10 years of taking self-defense and shooting very seriously and about 500 hours of training and countless hours of practice, if I only had $200ish to spend on a sighting system for a pistol, would I choose Tritium night sights, or a (used) laser module?


I’ve been thinking about it. My conclusion is that hands down I’d choose a laser.


Why Not Tritium?

  • If you only have enough light to be able to use your tritium, then you don’t have enough light to identify your target. This can be very bad. What then follows is that you must have enough light to identify your target. If you do have enough light to identify your target, then your tritium becomes less critical because you can see the outline of your sights. All pistols should have a source of white light near them. Whether it’s carried in a pocket, in a nightstand, or mounted to an accessory rail. Just don’t use the rail mounted light to ID targets, only for shooting. Greg Ellifritz talks about WML issues here. .
  • In dusk/transitional lighting, even if your fiber optic front sight (or bright paint) isn’t clearly visible, you still have the silhouette of the sights to be able to make hits. So tritium isn’t the only solution here.
  • For me, the most useful part of the tritium sights I’ve had experience with has been the large white/orange/yellow plastic that generally surrounds the tritium itself. Once again, this can be replicated on factory sights for pennies.

ScreenHunter_202 Feb. 21 00.25

Why A Laser?

  • They don’t punish you for being threat focused in an adrenalized state. If you lack the discipline/training to bring your focus to the front sight during a shooting, seeing the red spot on the target area allows rapid shooting.
  • Awkward shooting positions are made easier.
  • Increased hit chance in transitional light areas (0ver iron sights) where the target is otherwise confirmed as a shoot.
  • Allow those with poor eye-sight a way to make precision hits.
  • Retention shooting accuracy improves (from a compressed ready, or a “2”)
  • Less dedicated shooters require less practice to be able to make good hits, assuming their trigger control issues are sorted out. I’ve seen this with several shooters who had trouble with iron sights for whatever reason, but rapidly improved when a laser module was introduced to the mix. Since my wife might have to use my gun to shoot someone off of me in a home invasion type scenario, I’d like to give her the best possible chance of not shooting me in the process.
  • As Claude explained to me, the way to use the laser is not to hunt for the laser on the target, but rather to present the gun in a normal fashion and use whatever you happen to pick up first, sights or laser dot.
  • Downsides: Batteries. Yeah, but hopefully the stigma of needing batteries for sighting systems has gone down since everyone has a red dot on their rifle now. Set a google calendar reminder and change them every 6 months. Besides, if the laser fails, you still have your iron sights. Practicing with the laser off, simulating battery failure, is also important.


I know I’m not the first person to say lasers are worth your time. I was just posting the hypothetical about making the resource constrained decision between tritium and a laser. Next time I have access to a range and I can shoot at dusk/dark, I’m going to take a selection of pistols with different sighting setups (irons, fiber optic, tritium, and lasers) and on a timer record multiple repetitions of shooting from various ready positions, and with shooters of various skill levels. I’m pretty confident the numbers will show I’m on the right track. I’ll report back.

Categories: Beginners Guide, General
About Brandon Curtis | View all posts by Brandon Curtis

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady…

Brandon is the founder of Concealed Nation and is an avid firearm enthusiast, with a particular interest in responsible concealed carry. His EDC is a Glock 27 that holds Hornady 165 gr FTX Critical Defense rounds, and rides comfortably in an Alien Gear Cloak Tuck 3.0 holster.

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  • Cotex

    To each their own, I personally find a laser a huge mental distraction. i have fired friends lcp’s with them, and my mind can’t get beyond looking at the jiggly red dot to allow me to pull the trigger befor it becomes stable. I want to be able for defense purposes to just feel like I can instinctually point and shoot, like I point with my finger, as a natural act rather than a “process” to follow or one that relies on a laser or sites of any sort actually. I will take immediate and accurate over any solution that causes a delay in the quest for precision. Speed and accuracy for self defense, deliberation and precision for target shooting. I would say that if you are practicing at self-defense ranges (which I consider 15 yards and in) if you are not hitting the target, you need more practice, not a laser. It is also one less thing you have to rely on and thus one less thing that can go wrong/malfunction.

  • Squabbles

    I prefer offensive nomenclatures in my sights.

  • Dr Dave

    I had the EXACT conversation with the Mrs. about 6-12 months back (mind you she is an accomplished shooter as well) we decided to replace the rear sights on our Glocks with LaserLyte’s new rear sight lasers. They are fully adjustable as a laser BUT also as a mechanical sight as well. Simply take out the plastic Glock OEM and replace with this tiny little 3 battery laser sight. Adjusting screws give the Glock the ease of windage adjustments that the OEM lacked. The laser is spot on easy to arm and disarm unlike some models that require fiddling, it uses the same thumb motion we all learned decades ago when removing the manual safeties on our 1911’s and Walther PPK’s
    We change the batteries when we change the ones in the smoke detectors and back in the game. So far even with EXTREME use on the range we have yet to kill a set of batteries or the units and they are cheap enough on EBay or Amazon (about $100). They also do NOT affect the holster and even add the ability to rack the slide on your belt that the OEM Glocks do not allow for.
    I am done with Tritium and more done with the clunky lasers attached to rails of custom made for front end. Now I need to find a similar one for the AR’s
    Dr D

  • Sheldon McNeely

    Nice gun. It’s handy and shooting in dark would be easier with the laser. I used to refer at for gun collections.